The decision about what to feed a macaw is often dependent on the type of macaw chosen as a pet because of the different dietary requirements of each bird. When held in captivity, a macaw does not require the same diet as it forages for in the wild due to the differences in energy and calories burned during each day. Owners can choose between providing macaw food that is seed-based or a formulated pellet or nugget-style food that is created to provide the correct nutritional balance for the pet bird.
Macaws are sociable birds that live in pairs and can fly in small groups of up to 25 birds. A bird provided with a balanced, nutritious diet can live up to 50 years; life expectancy will be shortened by dietary problems, including insufficient vitamins and malnutrition. The diet eaten by a macaw in the wild is high in fats and oils that should be replicated in the diet and food chosen for feeding the macaw.
Maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet for a macaw is important with the general rule of any food providing nutrition for a human is also capable of being used as macaw food. Regardless of the diet chosen for a macaw, a seed or pellet-based diet should be supplemented with nuts, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables should be washed prior to being fed to a bird with the strong beak of the macaw being used to peel most individual food items. As the macaw food should be high in fats and oils to maintain the health of the bird, nuts can be added in small amounts as they are high in both these requirements.
Ensuring the macaw food provides the required amounts of essential vitamins, minerals, and calories often means that a formulated pellet food will be a good choice for the bird. Commercially produced feeds are often designed specifically for the requirements of a specific type of bird, and usually includes seeds, grains, vegetables, and supplements of vitamins and minerals that are mixed before being baked and packaged. Choosing a formulated pellet or nugget macaw food ensures the bird cannot pick its favorite type of food from a group of seeds and grains. This type of food also ensures the correct balance of dietary requirements are met for the bird. Examining the dietary information of a type of food printed on the packaging can help the owner choose the type of food that will be the healthiest option for the bird.
Seed-based diets require far more involvement in the choice and amounts of macaw food by the owner of the bird. Maintaining the high calorie level of a macaw diet is often difficult with seed-based foods that must be supplemented with larger amounts of fruits and vegetables than commercially produced macaw food. Birds can also develop preferences about the food they consume, resulting in the macaw picking out certain seeds from within a mixture and ignoring those that are important to maintaining a balanced diet.